Once, twice, three times a champion. Adding to the European and world titles it holds at senior level, Spain is now the reigning under-21 soccer champion of Europe after its 2-0 victory over Switzerland at the Aarhus Stadium in Denmark on Saturday. The win is Spain's third triumph in the competition following successes in 1986 (with Ramón Calderé, Manolo Sanchís and co), and 1998 (with Guti, Míchel Salgado and Juan Carlos Valerón). More than that, though, it is a guarantee of the future of Spanish soccer, ensuring a period of continuity, of a style and of a group of players good enough to carry it off.
Spain took possession of the field and the ball from the start, while the Swiss sought protection in its attacking line-up's ability to surprise. Early on, Shaqiri had the honor of being the first and only member of his team to put David de Gea to the test with a sharp shot that the goalkeeper batted away.
Inspiration finally arrived for Spain six minutes before halftime with a deep cross from left-back Dídac Vilà that fell sweetly on to the head of Ander Herrera and past Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer.
The finale, though, belonged to Thiago Alcántara. After a 81st-minute foul on Iker Muniain halfway into the Swiss half, the Barcelona midfielder launched the free kick straight over Sommer and into the back of the net to deliver the most spectacular climax to the tournament imaginable. "They are decisions you take without thinking about them much. Then, when you see the result you say, 'what a crazy thing I did,' but it turned out nicely," reflected man-of-the-match Thiago.
For Spain coach Luis Milla, the wonder strike left him, "like everyone, surprised and amazed. It shows his talent and the confidence this soccer player had in this tournament. Without doubt that goal was the perfect cherry on the cake of the performance of the entire Spanish team. [...] All have been important and they deserve it all because of their work, their mentality, their faith and their spirit."